Jails ‘Reap Harvest’ of Closed Mental Hospitals

Jails are “reaping the harvest” of the closure of mental hospitals because thousands of psychiatric patients are being incarcerated rather than treated, the chief inspector of prisons says today. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Anne Owers says that prison overcrowding is caused at least in part by the fact that thousands of mentally ill people are being sent to jail because there is nowhere else to put them. Anne Owers: ‘Prisons often act as mental hospitals’

She says there has been a “huge increase” in the number of mentally ill prisoners in recent years. The Government is conducting a survey to try to ascertain the scale of the problem.

“Prisons are often acting as mental hospitals and that is not what they are designed to be,” Ms Owers says.

“We are reaping the harvest of closing down our large mental hospitals without providing either proper community care or sufficient secure mental health care.” She says that, in addition, many prisoners are drug addicts who could be better dealt with in the community. “Prisons are not meant to be places where we mop up every social ill. They should be places to deal with, punish and deter serious criminals.”